The recently concluded ‘2+2 Dialogue’ witnessed the Minister of External Affairs and Defense Minister of India hosting their US counterparts in New Delhi on 6th September, 2018. Apart from making joint statements on issues relating to Pakistan, North Korea, Afghanistan, people-to-people ties, etc., 3 agreements were signed between the 2 parties: i) the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), ii) ‘hotlines’ between the Foreign and Defense Ministers of both countries and iii) the 1st tri-services military exercises between the 2 countries. Leaders of both countries have hailed the outcomes of this meeting as historic and one that will usher in a new era in US-India relationship.
COMCASA is the 3rd among the 4 “foundational” agreements that the US imposes with its defense partners. India signed the 1st of the 4 agreements called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), with the U.S. in 2002. The agreement enabled the sharing of military intelligence between the two countries and required each country to protect the others’ classified information. In 2016, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed by the two countries. Under the LEMOA the military of either country is permitted to use the others’ bases for re-supplying or carrying out repairs. The 3rd agreement COMCASA, which is an India-specific version of the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that the US has signed with other defense partners, enables the two countries to share secure communication and exchange information on approved equipment during bilateral and multinational training exercises and operations. The 4th agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), permits the exchange of unclassified and controlled unclassified geospatial products, topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data, products and services between India and the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Though BECA has not been signed yet, during the signing of LEMOA, the then Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that India would eventually sign the remaining agreements.
The 2+2 Dialogue cannot be seen as an isolated meeting, rather as a small step towards a greater establishment of US hegemonic control over India and also the Indo-Pacific region. It paves the way for using huge sums of public money towards the purchase of arms and equipments manufactured by US-based corporations. It also ensures that India’s military interests are absolutely aligned with that of the US, thereby closing down any possibility of disagreement on major issues – a complete surrender of sovereignty of this country.
The US realizes the importance of India as an arms market and a strategic base to counter the ever increasing influence of China, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. The 20th and 21st century is replete with historical examples of how the ‘military-industrial complex’ (MIC) has molded public policy of nations and devastated the people of those countries. This is inevitable for capitalism as it tries to come out of stagnation, which is its natural outcome. The Indian state, which is primarily run by its comprador bourgeois corporate, bureaucrats and politicians, has played into the hands of these capitalist corporations. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the largest arms importer in the world in the period 2012-17, accounting for 12% of global arms imports. SIPRI, in its report, also stated that arms imports from the US increased by 557% in 2012-17 compared to that in 2008-09 period, clearly showing the role of the MIC in its attempts to come out of recession in the US.
The Indian mass media, controlled through ownership, advertisements and ideological training, also play into the hands of the MIC. Popular news channels, almost routinely, try to convince the Indian masses the impending threat of neighboring country attacks. This makes it easier for the Indian state to convince the Indian masses as to why public spending on basic healthcare, education etc. can be reduced, but military spending must increase. The lives of the poorest are put at stake by depriving them of their material rights, while aiding the advance of capitalism by benefitting arms producing corporations.
Successive governments have systematically demolished public defense institutions such as DRDO and its 50 labs, 5 defense PSUs, 4 shipyards and 41 ordnance factories so as to make it easy for private capital to penetrate the sector. In the 2+2 Dialogue, it was agreed that negotiations would be begun on an Industrial Security Annex that would allow Indian private sector to collaborate with the U.S. defense industry. It is widely argued that Indian defense labs are incapable of producing sophisticated research to produce military equipment in a time bound manner and without cost overruns. To them it must be asked, how then has ISRO, which is a public institution, accomplished the world’s cheapest lunar mission, or how has the Prime Minister confidently committed in public that ISRO will carry out its 1st manned mission to space by 2022. The perceptions of incapability of public research institutions propagated widely are nothing but a farce.
The outcome of the 2+2 Dialogue, when seen in conjunction with other such meetings with the US to establish the 4 ‘foundational’ agreements, severely compromises the sovereignty of India. Effectively, the US will have a clear understanding of arms and equipments that it has sold to India, making it extremely difficult to use it against them if the need arises. This overdependence would take away India’s right to dissent with any major decision that the US might be taking to further their interest for fear of an imminent US attack as has happened in various countries in the world.